The fire station that serves UCSB will have a new fire truck with a ladder tall enough to reach the top floors of all the buildings on campus on Feb. 1, but the station does not have enough firefighters to go inside a building in an emergency without backup.
The new engine, which cost $565,000, arrived at Station 11 on Storke Road three months ago after receiving its necessary inspections, and features a 100-foot ladder that allows the fire department to access buildings that were too high for the trucks on campus.
After purchasing the truck, however, the county does not have enough money to staff the campus station with the additional firefighters needed to comply with a new California Occupation and Safety Health Act law, which requires a minimum of four firefighters to respond to an indoor emergency. County Fire Chief John Scherrei has been trying since last year to get the university to sponsor a new 24-hour position, at a cost of $300,000 per year.
“I can not allow firefighters to disregard this jeopardy,” Scherrei said. “There are 1,700 campus fires a year [nationwide]. UCSB has been very fortunate not to have a major fire yet.”
Scherrei said the campus population has almost tripled since the station was created, but no new positions have been created.
“In order to go to work we need four people immediately,” Scherrei said. “I am going to be turning the heat up on this issue.”
UCSB Fire Marshal John Kennedy said the university has been aggressive in placing fire sprinklers and alarm systems in campus buildings, many of which did not already have them.
The new fire truck will also help the campus by giving firefighters better technology and access.
Because the university is located on the edge of the coastline, access is a concern for the fire department as a backup engine could have some difficulty responding quickly to a call on campus or in Isla Vista.
“The reason Station 11 is getting this engine is because I was concerned about the difficult access to the tall buildings in the area,” County Fire Marshall John Scherrei said. “Access is a problem. The campus is not in the middle of the city.”
Station 11 has not owned a fire engine with aerial capabilities for several years, making them dependent on Santa Barbara City stations for trucks to back up the campus station.
Until the truck goes in to official active service, the department will use the engine to train their firefighters by taking it out on runs four to five times a day.
“It takes a lot of specialized training, it takes a lot of time,” Captain Thadias King said.
Unlike the trucks on campus, which have bucket lifts instead of ladders, the new truck allows the fire fighters to handle a number of problems such as gas leaks, structure fires, building rescues and water rescues.